June 26, 2021
Statistically speaking, It is highly likely that you reading this, or someone close to you has experienced some type of trauma in their lives (e.g. physical, interpersonal, intergenerational, relational, racial). Research indicates the staggering reality that 5 out of 10 women experience some type of traumatic event in their lifetime.
Trauma is the emotional response to deeply distressing or disturbing events or stressors that may overwhelm someone’s ability to cope. When it comes to trauma, women tend to internalize their suffering and distress. This most frequently shows up as anxiety and depression.
It can also hide in our anger, sexual behaviors, issues with trust and vulnerability, substance use habits, or physical health symptoms. Although trauma treatment and trauma-informed care are becoming more and more commonplace, there are still gaps. On an individual and macro level, how do we even begin to find healing?
Keep reading for helpful tips on ways to begin to heal.
1) Know What Trauma Looks Like & How It May Impact You
Not everyone experiences Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), yet, they could still very much be considered to be traumatized. A huge myth that we come across in our work? If you’re not experiencing “flashbacks” or dissociative moments, or have not been raped or been in combat, you are not traumatized. Although some people experience these types of symptoms, others do not. Trauma can show up as frequent anger outbursts and lashing out, difficulty seeing the good in the world, feeling a profound sense of loss of control, a disintegration of identity and personality, a loss of faith or spiritual beliefs, etc. the list goes on.
A great indicator is your body. Common physical symptoms include increased startle response (i.e. you are jumpy or easily startled), feeling on edge, feeling disconnected from one’s body, heightened emotional reactions, or feeling emotionally or physically numb. For some of us, we can get so used to any of the states above, that it actually feels “normal” and we may chalk it up to “that’s just the way I am”. We challenge you to pay close attention to the sensations you tend to experience in your body. Before healing, we must attend to, notice, and increase our self-awareness. If you find yourself frequently feeling any of the above, we encourage you to meet with a professional healthcare provider for the purpose of accurate assessment and treatment. Learn More about PTSD Here
2) Find Your Safe People & Share Your Story
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”–Maya Angelou
You are never, ever alone. It may take some digging to find your safe people. This can look like friends, family, trusted faith leaders, therapists, or a support group. The important thing is to get connected, get seen, and share your story with those you trust.
It has been found that women tend to have larger and more varied social support networks than men. Use this and harness it. If you do not fall into this group, now may be a good opportunity to build new relationships and connections. Are you trying to determine what you feel comfortable sharing with others and what you do not? Working with a professional can help you navigate those decisions. Click Here to schedule a free brief consultation with one of our therapists.
3) Tap into the Expressive Arts
Engaging in the expressive arts such as dance/movement, art, music/sound, play, and storytelling can be helpful and powerful tools of healing. When it comes to trauma, it lives in our bodies and our emotional brains–thereby making it difficult to access by solely “talking”.
Expressive arts are a form of healing that can help you relieve traumatic stress, better integrate and regulate your nervous system, and can very easily complement other approaches you may currently be doing. Unsure where to start? Consider joining that dance class you may have been interested in., taking guitar lessons, purchasing a small set of watercolors to paint, or consider participating in a local theatre–whatever your interest is, it is never too late to discover what you are drawn to.
4) Nourish Your Spirit
When it comes to our spirit, trauma can often shatter some of our deepest held beliefs, views, and sense of being connected to our highest selves or that which is greater than ourselves. We encourage you to reconnect with whatever brings you hope and feeds your soul. If you follow a particular faith or spiritual tradition, yet feel disconnected from that aspect of yourself, we encourage you to take time for stillness and reflection and engage with whatever practices are helpful and restorative to you.
Additionally, seeking out moments of awe–such as being in nature, can significantly reduce the symptoms of traumatic stress (Anderson, et. al. 2018) One aspect of trauma that can sometimes be overlooked is the idea of “post-traumatic growth” which essentially posits that some people can go through trauma and feel like it has profoundly shaped them in a way of growing in resilience, gratitude, hopefulness, confidence, etc. Whatever trauma you have experienced, witnessed, or been impacted by, we want to remind you that there is hope, the journey of healing is possible, and, you do not have to do walk it alone.
While there is no easy fix to trauma, we hope that you consider using these tools to help you feel more grounded, connected, and hopeful, as you continue on your healing journey. May you be gentle with yourself along the way.
*Please Note: The information provided on or through this website or blog is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. Engaging with this material does not constitute a client/therapist relationship*
Anderson, C.L., Monroy, M., Keltner, D. (2018). Awe in Nature heals: Evidence from military veterans, at-risk youth, and college students, Emotion, 18 (8): 1195-1202